A still shot from the popular video, 'Root Canal on Tooth 18'
A still shot from the popular video, 'Root Canal on Tooth 18'

By Timothy Hyland


Even in the annals of the bizarro world of American reality television, the hit TLC show, "Dr. Pimple Popper," stands out as particularly ... well, disturbing.

As the name suggests, the show centers around a doctor who pops (almost impossibly large) pimples and other nasty growths. The physician’s name is Dr. Sandra Lee, and she has succeeded in building a global persona (and gaining quite a bit of fame and fortune) by showcasing the most disgusting aspects of her chosen field, dermatology.

It's a rise that began only a few years ago, in 2015, when Dr. Lee launched social media accounts that offered her followers a glimpse of her day-to-day life, extracting massive blackheads, cutting open cysts, and completing other nauseating procedures.

TLC Star Dr. Sandra Lee
TLC Star Dr. Sandra Lee

For reasons that defy logic, Dr. Lee’s social media platforms became insanely popular, leading TLC to give the dermatologist her own show, which debuted in 2018. The show, too, has proven to be a hit, albeit a somewhat revolting one, and so perhaps it is no surprise that others are hoping to follow in Dr. Lee's successful social media footsteps – including some in the world of dentistry.

In 2016, a YouTuber by the name of Ave Have posted a video of a “long overdue” teeth cleaning. That may not, on its surface, seem to be a particularly engaging topic for a video – comparatively few people particularly enjoy getting their teeth cleaned, after all – so why would a sizeable mainstream audience want to watch one?

As it turned out, the mouth being cleaned in the video required quite a bit of work. So when viewers decide to click play, they are treated (after a warning that what they’re about to see may be disturbing) to more than four minutes of a methodical, close-up teeth cleaning. As of March 2019, the video had been viewed nearly 4.6 million times.


Dental Lovers, a Romania-based channel launched in 2011, now boasts more almost 37,000 subscribers and a library of videos that truly push the boundaries of dental disgustingness.


Ave Have’s video is one of the most popular in the genre, but it's hardly alone. A cursory search turns up any number of YouTube channels dedicated to sharing with the public, in high definition, the sometimes unsavory realities of dental practice. The level of gross-out content varies from site to site, but one thing is consistent: the more stomach-churning the video, the more hits it garners.

Dental Lovers, a Romania-based channel launched in 2011, now boasts more almost 37,000 subscribers and a library of videos that truly push the boundaries of dental disgustingness. One of the channel's biggest hits, titled simply "Root Canal on Tooth 18," was posted in March 2017, and has since received more than 1.2 million views. Compare that to another video on the same channel, the comparatively innocuous "Getting Braces - Do They Hurt?" and you'll note the latter received only 19,000 views. Not gross enough, apparently.

Other channels take a more modest approach, attempting to mix educational videos along with the visually challenging variety.

A still shot from The Look Orthodontics video that has more than 12 million views.
A still shot from The Look Orthodontics' video that has more than 12 million views.

Take, for example, The Look Orthodontics. The practice, based in Melbourne, Australia, has been around since the early 1980s and launched its YouTube channel only two years ago. But already, it has racked up nearly 37,000 subscribers. Though the site offers informational pieces on retainers, overbite, and other general topics, it also has a one big “hit” – a fairly foul video of dentists applying braces (again, it doesn’t sound all that distasteful… but in the eyes of many viewers it most certainly is shocking). It's been viewed a staggering 12 million times.

Whether or not these gross-out dental channels ever leap from online curiosity to smash television series remains to be seen.

In the meantime, we know this much: “Dr. Pimple Popper’s” popularity has remained steady.

After being renewed for the first time in 2018, the show continues to perform well for TLC. In fact, on a Thursday evening in early January 2019, “Dr. Pimple Popper” was the highest-rated show on all of cable television, drawing more than 2.7 million viewers.


Author: Contributing writer Timothy Hyland has more than 20 years’ experience as a writer, reporter, and editor. His work has also appeared in Fast Company, Roll Call, Philadelphia Business Journal, and the Washington Times. 

Also by Mr. Hyland:

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